Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thinking about Christmas

It's December 28, but we're still in the middle of Christmas here. When we were overseas, off and on for about twenty years, it was very common for Christmas cards and gifts to arrive in January and occasionally even in February. Christmas really was a season, and since the tree was artificial (just try to find a fresh evergreen in Djibouti!), we left it up for ten or twelve weeks. When presents arrived, DH and I arranged them under the tree and told the kids Santa had come again, which delighted them no end. When we were in Georgia, we easily stretched the holiday season to include Orthodox Christmas on January 6 and Orthodox New Year a week after that. So I never feel let down at the end of Christmas day anymore; there's so much more Christmas to look forward to!

Something very interesting happened this Christmas. DH, DS and I returned late in the day from a lovely family dinner to see the little tree in the window of our art center sparkling with light, a bright, hopeful glimmer in the long, dark, almost sinister facade of the old jail.

"Who turned on the Christmas tree in the studio?" DH asked.

"I don't know," I said, and it was true. I had been in there several times in the last few days, trying to de-clutter by consolidating all my knitting patterns and needles in one place, and the place had been dark and cold.

"Looks like your poltergeist is back," he said.

I smiled as we pulled into our parking lot and the last twinkly light disappeared from view. There is something magic about this old place, and something magic about Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mrs. Woody's Quilt

A couple of months ago I went to an auction on Woody Farm Road in Bedford, hoping to buy a spinning wheel for our center. I didn't get the spinning wheel, but I did buy a couple of old unfinished quilt tops, entirely hand-sewn. The prettiest of the two is made in a six-pointed star pattern of tiny 2" patches (see the detail in the picture) and measures about four feet by two feet. It came with a whole box of completed quilt blocks that just needed to be sewn on.

The name of the man whose estate was being auctioned that day was Woody, and I call the quilt artist Mrs. Woody even though I have no idea who was actually making the quilt. Mrs. Woody must have put hundreds of hours into carefully cutting the tiny pieces and hand-stitching them together, arranging the colors beautifully, but one day she stopped, mid-seam, leaving a block half-sewn onto the quilt, and never returned.

When my sister-in-law Trish was here over Thanksgiving, she and I vowed to continue Mrs. Woody's work, and thanks to my brother Doran's taking their two very active young sons on a long hike, we were actually able to spend a couple of hours in our round living room hand-sewing a couple more rows of blocks onto the quilt. As we sewed, Trish and I talked about the woman who started the quilt, what she was thinking, how long it took her to get as far as she had, when that was and how old she was at the time, whether she had small children as she made it or whether her children were already grown, and what made her stop so abruptly and never return to her work. We thought perhaps a family crisis, a death or disappointment, had caused her to lose her creative spirit. Maybe she was a young woman with no children when she started the quilt, and when the kids came she had no time to work on it anymore, like the tablecloth my mother finished crocheting after fifteen years. Or maybe she herself became ill or died suddenly. It was strange and wonderful how completely into Mrs. Woody's mind we were as we worked to complete a project she had labored on so long. No longer a total stranger, through her art she had become a friend and helped to seal the friendship between the two of us, sisters-in-law separated most of the year by the long road between Indiana and Texas.

Fellow artists, when we sit down with a needle and thread, or a handful of clay, or a crochet hook or knitting needles or a palette of paint and a gourd, we begin an adventure that will live long after us, whether we finish the work or not. Enjoy every minute of it. There's no better time to think about the continuity of past, present and future than at Christmas, a time of deeply honored traditions all over the world. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hooray! We broke the comments jinx!

Now I know what to do--I have to add people as authors before they can comment. So, if you haven't already been invited to be an author, send me an e-mail at, and I'll invite you. Lady Mudwerkes, I love your work and encourage all of you following this blog to check it out.


Greetings-so many choices-so many buttons to tap.I can not wait until I have a space with you not only to give Handbuilding with Clay classes but also I am putting together a truly FUN Mixes Media Class....Interested people in the classes need to let us know, also, if any reader wants to see my work they can go to HAVE A GRAND NEW YEAR!!!

Still trying to enable comments...

I keep hearing from some of you that you can't make comments on this blog. I don't know what the problem is, but I'll keep trying to fix it. I really do want to hear from you! If you send your comments to in the meantime, I will cut and paste them here so that others can see them. It's awkward and medieval, I know, but what can I say? I love to spend my time making things and I hate to spend it messing around with the computer, so if there is a low-tech way to get there, I'll take it.

It's really, really cold in Bedford right now (7 degrees Fahrenheit, up from 1 degree early this morning), so it's perfect weather for staying inside and having fun with fibers in the sewing room. The heat in this old pile of rocks we call home is good but expensive, so DH goes around turning down the ancient hot-water radiators and I turn them back up as soon as I enter a room. As you might imagine, this does little to lower our heating bills. Anyway, the sewing room can get pretty toasty if DH stays out of it long enough.

I took the kids (DS and his cousins) to Bloomington yesterday to see the "Grand Tour" exhibit at the IU Art Museum (wonderful, and closing soon, so if you haven't seen it and you want to, you'd better hurry). The wind really whipped around our heads on the long walk from the parking lot to the museum and back, but it was worth it. On the way home I stopped at one of Bloomington's two yarn stores (Bedford unfortunately doesn't have any) and picked up the knitting and tatting needles I needed, and some yellow roving for making star ornaments. Unfortunately the store didn't have single tatting needles, just this four-needle contraption that won't fit into the points of the star, so we'll see if I can manage that challenge. Stay tuned, stay warm, and stay creative.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Felting/Knitting Setbacks

I'm bummed--the tip of my felting needle broke off already and there's nowhere close by to buy another one. SO even though I dreamed about felting last night (no kidding), I can't work on anything until I replace the needle. I should probably order these things in bulk.

Stymied by my inability to felt, I got out my latest knitting project and discovered the needles aren't long enough (it's one of those sweaters that you knit all in one piece up to the armholes). This must be the universe's way of telling me to stop playing around with wool and finish preparations for DS and DH's Christmas stockings.

You know, the thing about being the mom is, you spend all this time and energy filling stockings for your darling children and their father and then what do you have in your own? Only what you put there! One of these days I'm going to use the stocking as an excuse to buy myself some really peachy presents for Christmas, like a huge bottle of Chanel No. 5 or a sapphire and diamond ring. Maybe a bottle of Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, if I can figure out who sells it around here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Needle felting is addictive

Help, I can't stop needle felting! I've made four more ornaments from that little kit I told you about earlier. So cool--when I need a new color I just go to my yarn stash, pull out some yarn, rip it apart so it somewhat resembles roving, and poke it in. My friend Stephen just shakes his head and says, "We have to get you some more roving."

Here's a picture of the little snowman that started it all--so cute! It's going to be a package tie on a present for someone who collects snowmen--don't tell; I want it to be a surprise.

For my next act I'm going to put a piece of wool fabric between two thin layers of roving and try to come up with a felted fabric like Tina Kldiashvili's. Tina is the Georgian felting artist who made my beautiful coat. The picture shows a detail of the back left shoulder--imagine, the whole coat looks like this, just gorgeous. You can take a look at Tina's work at "Theka" is the name for felting in the Georgian language, and Tina is a Theka master. I would love to get Tina here to show us how she does it; we had hoped to bring her to Indiana and Michigan last summer but history got in the way. Maybe we'll have better luck in 2009.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Great news--we have a stained glass teacher!

I'm very happy to announce that Ross Thackery, a glass artist based in Bloomington, Indiana, has agreed to come down to Bedford on March 7 to get us started in the art of stained glass. Take a look at Ross's art at He makes gorgeous glass and I know this will be an exciting class. Wow, that rhymed... There's never been a better time to learn to work with stained glass right here in Bedford, so sign up soon. We won't be able to accommodate more than six students due to the size of the space.

I have been an admirer of stained glass work for as long as I can remember, starting with the beautiful windows of some of the old limestone churches here in Bedford. If you haven't seen the lighted windows at the Presbyterian Church at 15th and Lincoln on a winter evening, you should, just for a particularly stunning example. I know it's hard to think about taking a walk outdoors when it's so cold and icy, but some things are worth being uncomfortable for. Like the Bedford Parade, for example.

I'm getting close to announcing our felting class as well, so stay tuned for more good news in the coming days.

I know lots of you are busy putting the final touches on handmade Christmas gifts; what a win-win for the holidays! We love to make them, and the recipients love to receive them. Enjoy yourselves fully and stay inspired.

On a technical note, I just learned that for some reason, dear readers, you are unable to comment on anything you read here. I am working with the techies to solve this problem, so keep trying!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Needle felting--so much fun!

Last night while I was watching TV with my DH and DS ("darling husband" and "darling son"), I opened up the needle felted ornament kit I bought at the Corydon Fiber Arts Festival a couple of months ago. It's a little snowman, and includes undyed, black and red roving (that's unspun wool for those of you who haven't taken our spinning class yet). I poked that needle back and forth through a couple of HGTV shows (I can't believe DH and DS actually let me watch them) and then half of a sappy Hallmark Christmas drama, et voila! the cutest little fuzzy snowman appeared like magic. I can't wait to make another one--I'm looking through my yarn stash for new colors for the scarf. It looks like I have enough undyed roving to make a couple more, so the kit was a bargain at $10.00. The kit is made by Big Springs Farm and Fiber LLC in Pekin, Indiana; their website is This was my first adventure in felting, and the instructions were completely clear--what an ah-ha! moment when that roving starts to mesh together into a thick layer of felt.

I also have a lead on a teacher for our stained glass class--stay tuned for more good news on this front.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Stained glass and felting teachers wanted!

I'm psyched by our new schedule of classes for January through March 2008 (see our website During the early part of the year a lot of us try to compensate for the overeating, overspending, and general excesses of the holiday period, so it's a great time to learn a new skill and develop our interests. We're offering a new class in sweater knitting (taught by yours truly) and some old favorites. We're still looking for teachers for stained glass and needle felting, so if anyone out there has these skills and would like to share them, please let us know. You can post to this blog or e-mail us at

I had a good day at the Lawrence County Museum's Authors and Artists Day sale last Saturday. Visitors bought a lot of ornaments; Tonie's tatted crosses and mittens were favorites as were Stephen's felt skating Snoopies. I met several interesting and talented writers, so my mind is already at work on the idea of having a reading some cold evening in early 2009. When I was a grad student in English at the University of Maryland, I went to a number of readings and even read my own work on occasion; after all these years I can still remember them well. You never look at an author's work the same again after hearing that person read it aloud.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Witless Knitting

I have been trying to knit a tiny Christmas ornament, a red and white candy cane striped sweater a couple of inches wide. I've had two false starts, and I'm about to give the whole enterprise up. I should have knit it flat instead of trying to work with five double-pointed needles (or maybe I should have traded in the needles for toothpicks!). The constant color changes didn't help, either; I ended up with strings hanging everywhere, and a few holes where stitches should have been. I love making things at Christmas, but this year I might have to content myself with the little wooden snowman heads Tonie taught me how to make a couple of weeks ago. They're cute; we're going to make a few more to sell at the museum event tomorrow.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Come play in our sandbox!

That's what our lacemaking artist Stephen says when someone new comes to our center, to take a class or visit an exhibition, or just to chat and see what we are up to. By "we" I mean the small group of fiber artists, gourd artists, and other fun people who have become the core of the Old Jail Art Center at 1002 17th Street in Bedford, Indiana, in the building everyone calls the "Old Jail" because, well, that's what it is. It's a great old limestone building that once served as the Lawrence County Jail and Sheriff's Residence. I put that in capitals because that's how it is designated on the Indiana Register of Historic Places.

But I digress. What I wanted to say was, come play in our sandbox. If you are interested in the arts, however large or small, and in promoting the arts in off-the-beaten-track places like Bedford, we'd love to hear from you. Please also visit our website at, and let us know what you think. And most of all, if you are anywhere near the Bedford area, please write and arrange a visit to our center. We aren't keeping regular hours yet, but as our one-year anniversary approaches, that might change soon.